Mental Health

Ronel Groenewald, a counselling psychologist at Mediclinic Kimberley, explains five ways to unwrap a stress-free festive season.

Communication is key

The festive season is about family and celebration, but it can also be challenging for some families. Communication is vital. Discuss holiday details in advance to prevent potential conflict and create a more relaxed atmosphere. Agree, for example, who is hosting the meal, what contributions are expected, the seating plan and whether children will be seated separately. Also discuss personal space and downtime. Addressing and expressing your needs is a healthy way to create boundaries and a reminder that the only thing you can control is your reaction. Practise gratitude, tolerance, and accept that certain topics are off limits.

Do some financial planning

It’s easy to get caught up in the buying frenzy over the festive season but making expensive impulse purchases will create money stress in the months to come. Instead, source creative, meaningful gifts that don’t blow the budget. Alternatively, consider a no-gift festive season: a simple, pared-down family meal; or a staycation rather than spending money on holiday accommodation. This will reduce financial stress and let you all focus on enjoying your time together. 

Practise self-care

Relieve stress by carving out “me time”, as well as time for exercise, and your favourite hobbies. The festive season is often a bustling and demanding period involving shopping, planning, cooking and cleaning. You may be left feeling fatigued, stressed, and wanting the holiday to end so you can return to your normal routine. In this environment, self-care isn’t selfish; it’s vital. When you look after your mental and physical health, you’re able to give energy to others without feeling depleted.

Have realistic expectations

Many people expect happy family gatherings, or fun outings with friends over the festive season. When reality doesn’t match expectation, it can cause stress and damage relationships. Reduce undue pressure by accepting that family celebrations won’t be perfect; and plans with friends can go awry. When things go wrong – such as a missed flight, unexpected guests, or a last-minute kitchen mishap, see it as a chance to flex your resilience muscle. Coping with unplanned events is a valuable life skill. Focus on the positive aspects of the holidays instead.

Reach out for support

You might be alone over the festive season for different reasons, such as living far from family and friends, an unresolved family argument, a relationship breakdown, the death of a life partner, or because of social anxiety. If being solo is unavoidable, plan a special day for yourself. Cook your favourite meal and serve yourself a third helping, settle down with a book you’ve been meaning to read, or plan to binge a series you’ve been wanting to watch. If you don’t choose to be alone, consider volunteering for the day – or contact a long-distance friend or relative you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Online support groups can offer emotional assistance if you’re struggling, and Mediclinic’s teams of mental health experts can help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression.